Eileen Stonebridge recalls many happy and educational adventures in the Lakes over the years, including being a tour guide, and starring in a documentary by David and Jonathan Dimbleby!

"Thank you for the weekly postcards from Friends of the Lake District. The pictures and reports are a wonderful reminder of times spent in the Lake District. I have memories of many happy hours there encompassing earliest childhood recollections of paddling in the shallows of Windermere pulling a tiny toy boat on a string, to my last visit with my husband in 2011 when he struggled to walk from Elterwater to Skelwith Bridge.

Between those two stages I have a kaleidoscope of memories. Picnics seemed to feature during the few occasions when we visited during the 1940s. My uncle had a petrol allowance to visit farms so my aunt, cousin and I could join him in his Morris 8 on these rare trips. A great feature was to heat up soup and make tea using a little kettle on a meths stove. I recall my uncle saying “That little B takes too long, I am taking a flask”. Thereafter the picnic kettle was known as the “Little Bee”. In those days it was easy to park a car. I can remember our being the only people at Tarn Hows.

My first mountain was Coniston Old Man. I was staying with my aunt and uncle in Barrow, having travelled alone on the train from Euston, a big event in itself at the age of 14. My cousin, 7 years older than me, had planned, with some friends, to take the train from Barrow in Furness to Torver, climb the Old Man and return by train from Coniston. I was thrilled to be asked, but what would I wear? The others had boots, probably ex-army, but cagoule and anorak were not in English vocabulary in 1950. I wore my lace up school shoes and for a waterproof, my cousin’s cycle cape. Of course it rained, but I was smitten. I wanted to climb mountains. Not so easy when we lived in Kent. A One Inch map of the Lake District was an object of desire. It was three shillings and ninepence, which my father thought was “A lot of money for a map”, but he bought it for me and I still have it.

Eventually the chance came to do more walking through youth house parties and HF holidays. In the hot summer of 1959 a friend and I were at Monk Coniston when David and Jonathan Dimbleby joined us whilst making a documentary about holidays in the Lake District. It was filmed as if they had been on our walk and arrived off the bus which brought us back to the guest house. It had to be filmed twice which caused me to miss a place in the queue for the bath. No ensuite in those days. The ladies’ bathroom had enamel bowls on a wooden bench.

I took my degree as a mature student and field courses provided opportunities to explore many aspects of the Lake District. I recall putting sampling corers down Blelham Bog. It rained so hard the men put sample bags on their heads to keep off the rain.

There followed many years of holidays and leading field courses with visits to places such as Gait Barrows, Grizedale or Whinlatter where the guides and wardens told us so much about the ecology and management. On several occasions Mike Houston (of Friends of the Lake District) came to talk to my students, he was always very well received. One memorable field visit was to a farm, run by friends of mine. The colleague who was helping me was very urban and had a perception of farmers that they were wealthy and had a Porsch tucked away somewhere. I will not forget her reaction when she saw the true state of affairs on a working Cumbrian hill farm.

It was during these years that I met my husband. He also had memories of teenage holidays in the Lake District.  We spent two nights of our honeymoon at Blea Tarn House on our way to Scotland. Could there be a more lovely place for a start to married life?

We came to the Lakes most years and found some delightful places to stay and lovely people to look after us. Generally, we preferred small hotels and guest houses, but one rather different holiday was when I helped a friend with a cultural tour. I did commentary on the landscape and we visited, Kendal Museum of Rural Life, Blackwell, Beatrix Potter’s House and Brantwood, approached on Gondola. We stayed in the Wordsworth in Grasmere and my husband and I had a room with a huge Victorian bath with formidable looking taps and a massive shower with the notice 'DOUCH'...

The Lake District is an amazing place and I have been fortunate to see and experience so many aspects of it. Visits have been with the people who were dearest to me and now they have all gone, including my dear husband, but the hills remain as  Norman Nicholson said “Thirty Thousand Feet of solid Cumberland”* I can look at pictures, read poetry and still feel in touch through Friends of the Lake District."

*Norman Nicholson “To the River Duddon”

Eileen Stonebridge